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A ride to The Big Texan – Wichita, Kansas to Amarillo, Texas

November 24, 2009

Wichita, Kansas to Amarillo, Texas
October 3, 2009

The next morning, I punched in the destination on the Nuvi and grabbed a handful of throttle. Today would be a blur of interstate and rural routes to Amarillo. The total mileage today was around 400 miles. The weather was much improved and after a great night’s sleep I was ready to start riding longer distances. The bike was running perfectly. I was a bit worried about the back tire. I had Michelin Pilot Road 2ct’s on and they already had about 6000 miles. The rear had a big flat spot but the front looked perfect. I can’t say enough about how good these tires are for long distance riding. I’ve since switched to Pilot Power 2ct’s and after several thousand miles I think I prefer the Pilot Roads. I won’t go into a much detail here as I’m working on a complete review in the Gear Review section. The basic difference in the tires is the compound – the Pilot Roads are not as sticky as the Pilot Powers and the Powers have a more angular or pointed profile. This means that the more emphasis is placed on the tires sidewall. That translates into the bike falling into turns much more quickly. This can make the bike feel twitchy and nervous. BUT, when the road is warm and there are infinite curves, the Pilot Powers just walk away from the Pilot Roads. HUGE grip. More about that in another post relating to gear. Anyway I was worried about the wear on the back tire. I think if I had known at that point how much more life the tires had in them I would have not believed it.

The ride was mostly nondescript except for this absolute gem of a place.

For whatever reason on this day they were closed! Man can you imagine the goodies they serve in there? Jell-O, coconut cream pie, chipped beef on toast? What a cool looking place.

One thing you will see as I post more reports is that I have a thing for “The Middle of Nowhere”. I love those pictures of the road disappearing into the horizon and on this trip there would be plenty of that. This is somewhere in Kansas. Can’t say enough about the weather, it was just fantastic now. The last I heard from home (Stowe, Vermont) was that it rained for the entire month of July………………. Man, that, and six months of snow. Get me the hell out of there.






























The ride to Amarillo was loooooooooooong. As far as I can remember I crossed into Oklahoma for a bit then into Texas. The last two hours were through featureless terrain in the gathering dusk. I had been picking up the pace as evening caught up with me. For most of the last few hours the pace was near 90+ mile an hour and mostly I was getting blown off the road by pickup trucks and dusty battered foreign cars that all seemed to be maroon with chrome accents. When the sun started to go down the temperature did as well. I was entertaining myself playing Nuvi roulette looking through various hotels in Amarillo. I have an excellent Lonely Planet USA guide book that I often use but not for hotels as I find the reviews to be usually more than I want to spend. I got to Amarillo about an hour or so after dark. I was cold and tired. I think these extended trips take a while for the rider to get into the groove. On my last trip I beat myself up riding 700 mile days. I covered a lot of ground but never really felt like I was experiencing the things I wanted to see and do. On this trip I mostly rode less miles in favor of more interesting routes and sights. In Amarillo, I found another sketchy LaQuinta (Spanish for “Welcome Home” according to their billboard) near the interstate and checked in. I unloaded the bike and changed out of my riding gear. Great, another yellow room with yellow furnishings. This LQ was even more unkempt. As I mentioned in an unfinished thought in an earlier post I ran a luxury hotel for a few years and laughingly employed the title “Hotelier”

I’ve had a number of careers virtually all in investment banking and alternative investment management – hedge funds, private equity and currency overlay. So of course I was naturally qualified to run a hotel in rural Vermont….. Man, Newhart the TV show was more documentary than comedy! I won’t go into it too much except to say that the four years I was an “Hotelier” I had some wonderful successes, enjoyed nature, met a ton of fantastic guests and locals and burned in the fires of hell almost daily. It’s a never, ever ending 30 hour a day job. I never realized how close my life was to that of Norman Paperman in Herman Wouk’s fantastic “Don’t’ Stop the Carnival” Anyway, the point I was eventually going to make was that my view of hotel rooms has forever changed. My hotel rooms were absolutely spotless in every way. You could do surgery in the bathroom – it was that clean. From understanding the nuts and bolts of cleaning rooms, I now also have the knowledge of where to look for the “nasties” and no I won’t tell you what those are because I don’t want to ruin your enjoyment of hotels or hotel rooms. This room was not particularly clean but not dangerous. Would it kill them to vacuum under the bed once in a while?

I went to the convenience store next door and got a tall Coors light in a can, a diet Coke, and cheese and crackers. On the way back I cut through the lobby and ran into this huge poster advertising THE BIG TEXAN. What the hell is that? I thought. I had a distant memory of Adam Richman from Man VS Food eating there. It was interesting and the kicker was the part that said “We will pick up in a limousine and bring you back for free” I ran to my room and called for pickup. Soon enough a Cadillac Limo pulled up with steer horns on the hood. Of course the toot of the horn toot was the Yellow Rose of Texas which the driver tooted at every opportunity. I climbed into the back and settled into the maroon interior. I wish I had a glass of Bourbon and a Cowboy hat so I could J.R. Ewing up the ride! We picked up a few truckers at a truck stop and continued toward the BIG TEXAN. Along the way the driver got to talking to the truckers and by happenstance they were from the same little town in Texas somewhere to the south. The trucker commented that when he was young they used to ride horses to Amarillo over what was mostly open range and they could get there in two days. Man, two days on the open range! Sign me up. That sounded really neat and sort of disturbing at the same time. You wonder what sort of life that was. One that involved a lot of backbreaking work, heartache, and little money I’m thinking.

We arrived at the BIG TEXAN and climbed out of the Caddy. I tipped the driver and walked in.

The main dining room at THE BIG TEXAN

The décor was of course western. Antlers, wood floors, tin ceiling and an assortment of other country decorations. What killed me the most was row after row of slot machines that took cash but did not return anything other than the opportunity to pull the lever and watch your money disappear. They were “for entertainment only” and gave nothing back – and people were playing these things! They also had one of those indoor shooting ranges where you put in a buck (or in this case five bucks) and shoot at the targets. I walked around a bit taking in the scene which was almost entirely composed of tourists and truckers. I grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered a BIG TEXAN beer and took a look at the menu.

The BIG TEXAN is famous for a food challenge of eating like 30 pounds of poorly cooked steak for free if you can choke it down in an hour so. It was $50.00 if you could not. That really did not interest me having to ride a motorcycle all day the next day. I ordered an assorted meat platter. It was indifferently cooked and soggy, mushy, and bland. But hey, I’m eating at THE BIG TEXAN! It’s the experience, it’s the atmosphere, ugg, it’s a fucking tourist trap. So, while the food was bad it was a good tourist experience and I got to ride in a steerhorn festooned caddy limo.

Overall Amarillo was one of more of the forgettable places I visited, tons of truck stops, crappy motels, and fast food places.

Tomorrow – Tomorrow Santa Fe, New Mexico


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